Potential of X-band polarimetric synthetic aperture radar co-polar phase difference for arctic snow depth estimation

Hugues.lantuit [ at ] awi.de


Changes in snowpack associated with climatic warming has drastic impacts on surface energy balance in the cryosphere. Yet, traditional monitoring techniques, such as punctual measurements in the field, do not cover the full snowpack spatial and temporal variability, which hampers efforts to upscale measurements to the global scale. This variability is one of the primary constraints in model development. In terms of spatial resolution, active microwaves (synthetic aperture radar – SAR) can address the issue and outperform methods based on passive microwaves. Thus, high-spatial-resolution monitoring of snow depth (SD) would allow for better parameterization of local processes that drive the spatial variability of snow. The overall objective of this study is to evaluate the potential of the TerraSAR-X (TSX) SAR sensor and the wave co-polar phase difference (CPD) method for characterizing snow cover at high spatial resolution. Consequently, we first (1) investigate SD and depth hoar fraction (DHF) variability between different vegetation classes in the Ice Creek catchment (Qikiqtaruk/Herschel Island, Yukon, Canada) using in situ measurements collected over the course of a field campaign in 2019; (2) evaluate linkages between snow characteristics and CPD distribution over the 2019 dataset; and (3) determine CPD seasonality considering meteorological data over the 2015–2019 period. SD could be extracted using the CPD when certain conditions are met. A high incidence angle () with a high topographic wetness index (TWI) (>7.0) showed correlation between SD and CPD (R2 up to 0.72). Further, future work should address a threshold of sensitivity to TWI and incidence angle to map snow depth in such environments and assess the potential of using interpolation tools to fill in gaps in SD information on drier vegetation types.

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Primary Division
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Publication Status
Published online
Eprint ID
DOI 10.5194/tc-16-2163-2022

Cite as
Voglimacci-Stephanopoli, J. , Wendleder, A. , Lantuit, H. , Langlois, A. , Stettner, S. , Schmitt, A. , Dedieu, J. P. , Roth, A. and Royer, A. (2022): Potential of X-band polarimetric synthetic aperture radar co-polar phase difference for arctic snow depth estimation , The Cryosphere, 16 (6), p. 2163 . doi: 10.5194/tc-16-2163-2022

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